8 July 2021

Baroness Delyth Morgan, Chief Executive at Breast Cancer Now, said: 

“Today’s figures reveal cancer services continuing to struggle due to disruption caused by the pandemic – and looking ahead, as the government eases restrictions, rising COVID-19 cases could leave more breast cancer patients facing distressing delays to their diagnosis and treatment.

“Alarm bells are already ringing around the urgent need to keep COVID-19 under control so that cancer services are protected and can resume, with at least one hospital cancelling cancer surgeries due to increasing COVID-19 admissions.

“Almost 11,000 women in the UK could have been living with undiagnosed breast cancer at the end of 2020 due to the pandemic – a considerable challenge lies ahead for our already immensely strained NHS. Government must invest in a strategic, fully funded long-term plan for the imaging and diagnostic workforce now so that women with breast cancer get a prompt diagnosis and can start treatment as quickly as possible, giving them the best chance of survival.

“We urge women to contact their GP if they find any new or unusual breast changes – while most changes won’t be cancer, on the occasions it is the sooner breast cancer is found the more successful treatment is likely to be. COVID-19 infection safety measures are in place at appointments. For information and support, speak to our expert nurses by calling our free Helpline on 0808 800 6000.”

ENDS

Monthly NHS England breast cancer waiting times, May 2021:

  • The two week wait target for people referred with suspected breast cancer was not met. The target is 93% and 72.7% of patients were seen within two weeks in May 2021. This is an increase from April 2021, when 67.2% of patients were seen within two weeks. Referrals decreased from 42,568 in April 2021 to 39,850 in May 2021.
  • The two week wait target for breast symptoms (where cancer not initially suspected) was not met with 67.9% of patients being seen within two weeks. It is an increase from April 2021 when 62.1% of patients were seen within two weeks. Referrals decreased from 14,259 in April 2021 to 13,241 in May 2021.
  • The two week wait target for suspected cancer for all cancers was not met with 87.5% of patients being seen within two weeks, an increase from 85.4% in April 2021.
  • The 31 day target (of 96% of patients starting their first treatment within 31 days of diagnosis) was missed for cancer overall (95.1%) and was missed for breast cancer (95.0%).This is an increase from 94.2% in April 2021. The total numbers in breast cancer have increased from 3,835 in April 2021 to 3,869 in May 2021.
  • The 62 day target (of 85% of patients starting treatment within 62 days of urgent GP referral) was missed for cancer overall (73.0%) and was missed for breast cancer (81.2%). This is an decrease from 84.1% in April 2021. The total numbers have increased from 2,050 in April 2021 to 2,084 in May 2021.

New Faster Diagnosis Standard (FDS), May 2021:

  • The FDS target for exhibited (non-cancer) breast symptoms (where cancer not initially suspected) was met. The target is 75% and 85.8% of people were told by a specialist if they had cancer, or if cancer was definitively excluded within four weeks (28-days) of an urgent referral. This is an increase from April 2021, when the figure was 85.3%.
  • The FDS target for suspected breast cancer following a screening referral was met. The target is 75% and 92.1% of people were told by a specialist if they had cancer, or if cancer was definitively excluded within four weeks (28-days) of an urgent referral. This is a decrease from April 2021, when the figure was 92.6%.
  • The FDS target for urgent suspected breast cancer was met. The target is 75% and 88.8% of people were told by a specialist if they had cancer, or if cancer was definitively excluded within four weeks (28-days) of an urgent referral. This is an increase from April 2021, when the figure was 88.8% (figures are rounded).
  • The FDS target for all routes following an urgent GP referral was not met. The target is 75% and 74.3% of people were told by a specialist if they had cancer, or if cancer was definitively excluded within four weeks (28-days) of an urgent referral. This is an increase from April 2021, when the figure was 72.9%.